My Department promotes the planting of new forests through a range of attractive support measures — the Afforestation Grant Scheme, the Forest Environment Protection Scheme and the Native Woodland Scheme. These schemes provide 100% establishment grants and annual premiums for up to 20 years. In addition, my Department undertakes promotional activities to encourage farmer participation in forestry. Funding is also provided to Teagasc who play an important role in the development of forestry in Ireland through promotion, training and advice. Forestry Advisers at Teagasc offices run a number of training courses, information evenings and field days and provide free and independent advice on all aspects of forestry to farmers.
The Renewed Programme for Government, agreed in October 2009, commits the Government to increasing the level of planting to 10,000 hectares per annum. A positive step in this direction is the allocation for forestry in the 2010 Budget of over €119 million that will facilitate a higher level of planting, in the region of 7,000 hectares, this year. Increasing the level of funding available for forestry at this time is clear evidence of the Government's continued commitment to forestry. The Government further committed in its Programme to review State forest policy. To organise the work of the review I have formed three separate groups, firstly an overarching group with wide representation dealing with national forestry policy, secondly an interdepartmental group dealing with the funding of forestry schemes and finally an interdepartmental group with Coillte representation dealing exclusively with the role, functions and operations of Coillte.
This review process is now underway with a request for submissions from interested parties published in the national press this week. It is proposed to complete the reviews later this year and their conclusions will contribute to the achievement of the objectives set out in the Programme for Government. I believe that the combination of the very attractive financial package available and the significant supporting promotional efforts being undertaken will assist in furthering our afforestation programme and thereby enabling us to meet our planting target.